World Cup 2018: Croatia beat England 2-1 to reach final
MOSCOW: Impressive Croatia soared to World Cup final after beating England 2-1 in their semi-final encounter in Moscow on Wednesday.
Mario Mandzukic scored the winning goal in the 109th minute to complete a remarkable comeback from a shattered Croatian team and take the small nation of little more than four million people into the World Cup final for the first time in their short history. Croatia will face France for Sunday's final.
England and Croatia were headed to extra time as they were locked at 1-1 at the end of normal time.
Kieran Trippier gave England a dream start in the Luzhniki Stadium, curling in a free-kick past the despairing dive of Danijel Subasic in just the fifth minute.
But Ivan Perisic levelled for Croatia in the 68th minute, nipping ahead of Kyle Walker to steer home Sime Vrsaljko´s cross past a diving Jordan Pickford.
A goal by Mario Mandzukic in the 109th minute gave Croatia the edge.
Heartbreak for England as Croatia took the lead in the early stages of this second period of extra time. It was more tired defending from England, who were finally punished for their sloppy defender.
It was the perfect start for England, settling their nerves in the early stages, as they went on to dominate until the end of the first-half.
But a cagey start to the second half followed, with Perisic equalising to send the game to extra-time.
England had one goal, but it also only had that one shot on target the whole game, out of eight attempts. Croatia in contrast had 14 shots, five on goal.
Croatia 'ready' for France, says coach Dalic
Moscow: Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic said his team faces a "daunting task" to beat France in the World Cup final after their 2-1 victory over England in extra time.
Mario Mandzukic struck a dramatic 109th-minute goal at Luzhniki Stadium here after Ivan Perisic had cancelled out Kieran Trippier's opener, reports Xinhua news agency.
It was the third consecutive match that Croatia have won after being forced into extra time. They prevailed in penalty shootouts following 120 minutes against Denmark in the round of 16 and Russia in the quarterfinals.
"This World Cup will be won by a team with character," Dalic said. "We were 1-0 down three games in a row and came back to win each time. We have shown character. We are a nation of people who never give in, who are proud and have character.
"France are top-drawer. We are facing another daunting task but we are ready for it. I'm sure everybody will be looking forward to it. I have huge respect for France."
'We left everything out there'
MOSCOW: Manager Gareth Southgate said England "left everything out there" after falling to an extra-time defeat by Croatia in the World Cup semi-final on Wednesday.
England were hoping to reach a first World Cup final since 1966, but let an early lead slip to lose 2-1.
"I think in the first half we were really good and maybe we could have got another goal," Southgate told ITV.
"I can´t ask for more from the players. I think knockout football is about fine margins and when you have good spells against fine sides you need to take your chances.
"Tonight we weren´t quite there but we will learn from that. We left everything out there."
Southgate said the players were deeply disappointed, but that his young team could achieve great things in the years to come, with the European Championship just two years away.
"It´s impossible to say anything to make the players feel better at this moment in time," he said.
"We have to be proud of what we´ve achieved. I don´t think anyone could have given any more.
"Players had run out of steam but that´s partly their age -- they´re still physically maturing. Croatia have hardened warriors whose understanding of big matches at times came to the fore.
"The players have to go through big matches and experiences to become a team that can win. They have to use this experience for benefit and I know that what´s happened over the last few weeks will make them a stronger team."